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Ginew School Reaching Out for 17 Years

August 14, 2019


For 17 years, Ginew School in Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has reached out to neighbouring communities, inviting students from other schools to learn about the culture and people of the First Nation.

Pearl Henry, Ginew School guidance counsellor for 23 years now, has been there from the beginning.

“The Gathering of Friends is where we share our culture and traditions with any guests that come to see us,” says Henry. “We try to break down barriers with neighbouring towns and break down stereotypes. Try to make connections with people that live close to our community.” Indeed, just a look at the many workshops offered gives one a sense of the efforts and scope of the event: Bannock and Fish Fry, Anishinaabe Life, Residential Schools, Planetarium, Leather Press and Crafts, Sweat Lodge, Moccasin Games, Hunting and Trapping, Dancer Regalia, Treaties, Names of People & Places, Ogichidaa, Stick Games, Ojibwe Language, and Drum Making.

There is simply too much for one person to take in during the single-day event. Henry explained that a schedule is made up, and students from the participating schools attend the workshops, each lasting less than a half hour.

Walking into a courtyard, the smells of  fish and frying bannock greet you. Nicole Atkinson talks to an assembled group of visiting students about how she prepares bannock. She tells students she makes bannock the way her kookum did, and then just grabs ingredients and starts mixing it.

Atkinson said she used to work at the school but is busy raising her grandchildren at the moment. However, she loves to cook and give demonstrations.

“I was not the one who gave myself that name,” said a smiling Atkinson. “Someone from here [Roseau River] gave me that name, Bannock Queen, and it just kind of stuck.”

The Dancer Regalia workshop included lessons in the types of dance one might see at a local Powwow. Workshop leaders shared how referring to dance regalia as “costumes” is considered an insult.

Rockford McKay, MFNSS Science Facilitator, was there with his inflatable planetarium to give the students a taste of Anishinaabe constellations.

McKay always credits MFNERC’s Wilfred Buck for laying the foundations for the work done learning about Anishinaabe constellations and collecting their related stories.

McKay said, for his part, he had brought along video of the moon landing, which always piques students interest in science.

Since the formation of MFNSS, McKay works with schools in the school system with the portable planetarium and science-related activities. Buck still works with schools in MFNERC.

Jeff  Albert, a Grade 5 teacher with École West Park School in Altona, said, “ This is my  first time in Roseau River (Anishinabe First Nation),” and “I love the fact the students get a chance to see Indigenous culture and get to see  first person perspective on everything. We got to hear Anishinaabemowin spoken, and that’s just fantastic.”

Albert said there were 48 students from his school taking part in the Gathering of Friends.

After a provided lunch, the day ended with a demonstration Powwow where the visiting students could see the various dances and regalia of the dancers.

Henry said they don’t advertise the event or seek publicity due to the high demand to participate from schools in the local area.

The day hadn’t even ended and Ginew School began getting inquiries from schools wanting to attend the event next year.

By Trevor Greyeyes


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